Medical Devices and Healthcare IT

Watch How a Smarter Cane Assists the Visually Impaired

03 August 2018

The white cane used by the visually impaired to navigate has just received a high-tech upgrade. A prototype cane attachment — the Navigational & Object Visual Assistant (NOVA) — designed by Texas A&M engineering The NOVA enclosure designed and created by engineering students. Source: VIATECH/Texas A&MThe NOVA enclosure designed and created by engineering students. Source: VIATECH/Texas A&Mstudents uses an ultrasonic sensor and vibration motors to provide haptic feedback.

A specific voltage generated by the sensor, determined by the distance of obstacle or object from the user, is read by an analog to digital converter. The vibration intensity is defined by these data: the stronger the returning signal from the ultrasonic sensor, the stronger the motors vibrate. The sensor is also tuned to focus on objects above the waist, which are difficult to detect with a basic cane.

A left and right motor guide navigation, and the center motor is attached to the ultrasonic sensor, enabling the user to distinguish between navigational and obstacle detection vibrations.

NOVA is augmented by a mobile application that communicates with the cane and signals directions, such as ‘turn left,’ to the user.

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